Strike Zone & Sports Den Bar – Where Passion Meets Opportunity
It’s been just over two and a half years since Brad and Leisha Peterson took over ownership and operation of the bowling alley formerly known as Million Dollar Lanes on Second Avenue West often referred to as Million Dollar Way.
The name, Strike Zone, is only one of the many changes the new owners have made. The pair has been on a continuous path of improvements since taking over the business. It’s not the first time for them in retail or in business ownership.
Brad and the Floral Business
Brad Peterson moved from Tioga to Williston in 1988 to run the floral shop for Mike Kraft, owner of the County Market grocery store that was located in what is now the District 1 Health Unit in downtown Williston. As general manager, Brad oversaw a thriving business including their own green houses.
The floral shop that became known as Country Floral outgrew County Market and in 1991 moved into the west half of Jorgensen’s C-Store, which is 26th Street Liquor today. The continued growth of the floral business along with consolidation in the grocery business led to additional moves and changes.
In 1994, Kraft acquired the grocery store along with the adjacent property on the northwest corner of 11th Street and 2nd Ave West and consolidated his grocery business there as Economart. At the time, JR Grapevine stood on the corner of the property but Kraft had plans to redevelop that area.
“We burned it down,” recalls Brad. “As a training exercise for the Williston Fire Department, JR Grapevine was burned down to make way for what is today Arby’s and Country Floral.” Brad continued to run the Country Floral operation until his move into the bowling business.
Leisha and Getaway Travel
Leisha Peterson grew up in Outlook, Montana where she graduated and worked in bookkeeping before attending college where she received a degree as a physical therapy assistant. In 1998 she began working for Williams County Social Services in Williston.
Kraft owned a travel business located within the Country Floral building called Daryl’s Travel. It was experiencing some staffing changes in 2010 and Kraft offered to sell the business to Brad and Leisha.
After twelve years in social services, Leisha was feeling a bit burnt out and saw it as a good opportunity. In 2010, the Petersons bought the travel business and Leisha operated it as Getaway Travel. “I love bookkeeping and the detail-oriented nature of the travel business,” relates Leisha. “It was challenging, rewarding, and fun for me.”
Despite consumers flocking online to book their own travel, the business did well by focusing on the corporate travel business. That changed dramatically in 2014 with the slowdown in the energy industry in Williston and the business soon shut down.
Bowling Passion and Opportunity
Brad Peterson has always been a bowling enthusiast having grown up around it and often bowled two nights a week. “My grandpa built the bowling alley in Tioga,” Brad reflects. “It was B&B Bowling Center, for Blikre and Blikre.”
“I had inquired with Brian [part owner of Million Dollar Lanes] a couple of times over the recent years about buying the bowling alley if he was ever interested but he wasn’t at the time,” said Brad. “Then in June of 2014 Brian called, ‘Are you still interested?’”
The timing seemed fortuitous as the travel business was just ending and Leisha would be looking for her next opportunity. The two spent the second half of 2014 working on their business plan and finance package with Keith Olson at the North Dakota Small Business Development Center and their local lender. On January 1, 2015, the Petersons took over operations and ownership of what is now Strike Zone.
Their vision was to create a fresh and clean experience through continuous improvement as they couldn’t afford to do it all at once. “We wanted to create more family entertainment options for one,” explains Brad.
They immediately set to making changes with new tables, carpet and paint. It was at the Bowling Expo in June of 2015 that they discovered key changes they could make to achieve the vision. They installed new scoring consoles with software that offers interactive games for kids as well as adults. The Mad Games allows bowlers to play games such as building monsters based on the pins hit, take pictures of the players to use as characters in the games and many other features.
New masking was installed on the front of the pin machines along with new lighting to liven up the look. The floor was brought up behind lanes one through eight for better accessibility. The old seating was removed and replaced with standard table and chairs allowing for greater flexibility for groups of many different sizes and the flow between lanes.
“We wanted to make it more fun,” explains Brad. The pair focused a lot of effort on adding programs and leagues to get people more involved such as Jackpot Bowling, a variety of league types and 9-Pin No Tap.
A number of leagues and activities have been added or expanded in the Sports Den Bar as well including pool and dart leagues and Friday Night Bingo. “Brad’s retail background has been invaluable in our decisions and changes to meet people’s needs,” says Leisha.
“We had a vision for an arcade early on as it fit our desire for more family entertainment and we thought it would be a great fit for birthday parties,” shared Brad. In January of 2017 the restaurant vacated the space in the southwest corner of the building and the Petersons moved forward with their arcade plans.
Having visited other arcades and working with several vendors, the arcade was built and opened March 24, 2017 and has been a huge hit. “It has turned into more general and constant use than we thought beyond birthday parties,” shared Leisha. “We plan to rotate machines over time and add others throughout the bowling alley.”
On to the Kitchen
Having completed yet another project, Brad and Leisha are on to the next upgrade, a full-service kitchen that is well under construction. “The menu will be simple but well done,” said Brad.
The kitchen will serve a menu of burgers, wings, finger foods such as fries, onion rings and pickles spears as well as brick-oven pizza. “Levi, our oldest son, is excited about serving made-from-scratch pizza in a brick oven. We have a 1,600 pound brick-lined oven to be delivered soon, you’re welcome to help us unload it,” Leisha says with a smile.
The Peterson’s passion for the business shines through as they retell the journey they have been on for the past two and a half years. Their efforts are showing results and they appear on a path for continued success. You can check out their latest activities online at https://www.facebook.com/SportsDenND/